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yankees countdown

Yankees Countdown: No. 8, Curtis Granderson

The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Yankees players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 8, center fielder Curtis Granderson.

Not that this is shocking news exactly, but word out of Yankees camp today is that Curtis Granderson has won the center-field job for the upcoming season. We suppose the spot could have gone to Brett Gardner, of course, but it seems unlikely Granderson would have been beaten out by someone who's not even guaranteed to be a starter this year. In a relatively quiet (for them, at least) off-season, Granderson was the Yankees' biggest addition. And in a weakened outfield, the Yankees are counting on Granderson to duplicate his 2009 all-star campaign, and then some.

More specifically, they're looking for Granderson to hit for the same power he did in 2009. In fact, his biggest role may be as something of an experiment: How much can the Yankees tailor their roster going forward to fit the ballpark they play in? Granderson's the perfect test subject: Last year, he smacked 30 home runs while playing half his games at spacious Comerica Park. But on paper, a lefty like Granderson — someone who's showed the potential for power but isn't really considered a slugger — should have little trouble clearing the short, short porch in right.

That's on paper, of course. But still: Granderson's more valuable to the Yankees than he would be to a lot of other teams, ones that play in normal-size ballparks. Here, a 35-home-run season could go a long way toward making people forget he's just a .210 career hitter against lefties.

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Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images